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I have a new tank (40 gallon long) that's just finished cycling. I've had plants in there for a few weeks already and they're doing well overall, but are starting to show some real algae build-up. In particular my pygmy chain sword plants (Echinodorus tenellus) have quite a lot of brown diatoms and green hair algae.

Since I can finally start stocking the tank with fish, I was thinking I might start with an algae-eater that might clean up the plants. It's a South American community tank, so my three options that I know of are:

  • A small pack of Otocinclus
  • A bristlenose, bulldog, or other smallish herbivorous pleco. (Definitely not a common pleco.)
  • A Farlowella, or one of the other whiptails

The tankmates will be 3-4 Apistogramma, a group of Corydoras, and two schools of some apisto-friendly tetras, TBD.

I should note that I'm looking at these fish mainly because I think they're all interesting. I'll be choosing their primary diet appropriately, and any algae-eating is a bonus. On that basis I'd prefer a pleco or whiptail, but I don't have personal experience with either, and I'm thinking they'll be too large to pay much attention to the dainty little leaves on the pygmy chain swords. How efficient would they be at keeping them clean? Would either of them significantly damage the plants in the process?


Follow-up: Once I was actually looking at the fish in person, I ended up really, really liking the clown plecos, which don't eat much algae. (And importantly, the girlfriend likes them too.) I decided that this outweighed the utility factor, and got a pair of them. My algae right now is not a big problem, but if it were I'd have definitely gone with a pack of Otocinclus.

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Your Echinodorus tenellus should grow pretty fast if they have enough light and a good substrate. So, probably, your fish won't be able to destroy it.

And I would go with some Otocinclus. Although they are somehow sensitive, they do good in planted aquariums, specially if it has enough algae, that seems to be your case.

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  • Thanks @woliveirajr -- as I've now noted in my answer, I actually opted to go a completely different route, and got a pair of clown plecos. But I agree with your reasoning and would probably give the same advice to someone else in my position, or with worse algae than I'm currently seeing. – toxotes Oct 31 '13 at 16:38

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